Intellectual property can be a crucial business tool, but not everyone thinks with enough concentration about protecting their big ideas. In 2001, plumber Brad McCarthy got stuck on a remote beach in Cape York in north Queensland and spent about 6 hours getting his car out with a hand winch. He knew there has to be a better way. In response, he invented Inventhelp Inventor Stories, a light-weight vehicle-recovery device for bogged off-roaders.
After designing the super-tough nylon product, he attended a Queensland Government business seminar, in which the advisers stressed getting patent protection before his idea was publicised. “One of the primary things we did was talk to a patent attorney to view how you could protect the concept,” says McCarthy, who launched Maxtrax in 2005. It is now purchased in about 30 countries worldwide. McCarthy has patents in key markets such as Australia, Europe and the US, and the business also offers a trademark on the distinctive original “safety orange” hue it ways to use its moulded product. Unlike McCarthy, however, many inventors and businesses with a good idea cruel their odds of success from day one.
Their big mistake? Ignoring patents or some other intellectual property protection before they spruik their idea to investors, people or perhaps friends. It can be a costly error. Bradley Postma, principal at patent and trademark attorney firm Cullens, says small, and medium enterprises (SMEs), in particular, often neglect safeguarding their IP or think it will probably be expensive. “The vast majority of protectable IP goes unprotected,” he says.
Europe could be a particular trap for exporters because, unlike some other major markets, it lacks a grace period allowing for public disclosure of the invention without affecting the validity of Inventhelp New Products. That opens the way in which to have an idea or product to be copied. “In Australia and the United States you can do something about it, provided you’re in a one-year window – in Europe you can’t, it’s too late,” Postma says. “In that case, businesses have shot themselves in the foot; they’ve forfeited their rights and anyone can copy [their idea].” Postma observes that business people often think their idea is too easy to warrant a patent. “However, if it’s successful and straightforward, it will probably be copied and you have to get advice.”
Unitary patents on way – Margot Fröhlinger is principal director of unitary patent, European and international legal affairs on the Munich-based European Patent Office (EPO), which oversees about 160,000 patent applications annually. She recently completed a road trip warning Australian businesses that poor patent and IP safeguards could derail their European market opportunities. Companies have to innovate – and protect their inventions. “You have to have the protection of your IP and, specifically, patent protection to acquire an excellent return on your investment,” she says.
Many international businesses have baulked at exporting to Europe due to complex patent processes across multiple jurisdictions that can result in potentially high costs and marginal protection. However, the EPO is promoting a brand new unitary patent system that promises to become a game changer. This will make it easy to get protection in approximately 26 participating European Union member states using the submission of a single request for the EPO.
A November 2017 EPO study, Patents, Trade and FDI within the European Union, suggests better harmonisation of Europe’s patent system has got the possible ways to increase trade and foreign direct investment in high-tech sectors, delivering annual gains of €14.6 billion ($A22.8 billion) in trade and €1.8 billion (A$2.81 billion) in foreign direct investment.
Fröhlinger believes Australian businesses across all sectors have chances to expand to the European market, which boasts greater than 500 million people, high gross domestic product and strong consumer demand. “It’s extremely important for Australian businesses to know that there exists a big change ahead in Europe. I’m not talking only about patents,” Fröhlinger says. “It’s very important with an integrated IP portfolio considering patents and trademarks and (covering) design. Should they don’t have (IP) people in-house they ought to attempt to get strategic business advice.”
The price of intangible assets – This call to action for Australian businesses may come as the worldwide Innovation Index 2017 reports on countries’ IP receipts as a amount of total trade. Essentially, the measure indicates the way a country is performing on the IP front. While Australia scores well with regards to inputs into research and development, the united states (5.1 %), Japan (4.7 percent) and Finland (2.9 percent) easily outperform Australia (.3 percent) on IP royalties.
The message? For the most part, Australian companies usually are not great at converting research into value and treat IP nearly as an administrative function. The exceptions are health tech leaders, like medical device company Cochlear and sleep-disorder business ResMed, which understand the value of intangible assets like brand and data use, vyltsm build their businesses around it.
In a knowledge-based economy, IP has become a crucial business tool and governing it is not just a matter of organising trademarks and patents. Intangible assets are rapidly increasingly important than tangible assets and require appropriate consideration.
Overview of Australia’s top listed companies, released by Glasshouse Advisory in September 2017, endorses this type of sentiment. It reveals that 38 % in the companies’ value (about A$550 billion) will not be included on their own balance sheets; this indicates that Invention Ideas are operating without insights into a significant proportion of the corporate asset base.